I receive compensation for many links on this blog. You don’t have to use these links, but I am grateful to you if you do. American Express, Citibank, Chase, Capital One and other banks are advertising partners of this site. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same).
The concept of ‘best’ credit card is really 3 different ideas — there are different ways that credit cards can benefit you, and there are different cards which will serve your needs in each category.
- Those you get just for the signup bonus, but you may not want to keep spending on the card after you’ve earned the bonus.
- Those you get for the benefit of having the card, the benefits are great, but it may not be one you actually want to put spend on.
- Those that are most rewarding for everyday spending. You carry these in your wallet and pull them out to charge with
Most readers are more interested in the one answer, and don’t want the wallet and drawer full of plastic that I’ve got. I carry several very mission-specific credit cards, but not everyone is going to sort things that way. So they want to know what one card is best, which one should they get since they aren’t going to sign up for three or five?
So here are my top five all-around personal rewards credit cards, taking into consideration signup bonus, value for every day spending, and benefits for holding the card.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve Card costs $450 and offers a 50,000 point signup bonus you can earn (possibly availabile still briefly with a higher bonus in-branch). It earns triple points on travel and dining. It comes with a Priority Pass Select card for airport lounge access. And you get a $300 annual travel credit.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a $0 fee the first year ($95 thereafter), 50,000 points after $4000 in spend within 3 months, 5000 more points for adding an authorized user to the account and making a purchase during that same timeframe, and double points on all travel and dining spend.
Points transfer to United, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, and IHG Rewards Club. These are some of the most valuable points, and the card earns them quickly… especially for people who travel.
This is the card I recommend most to beginners in the hobby for getting started.
- Platinum Card® from American Express. This is the card that offers the best insider benefits. The card earns 5 points per dollar on airline tickets.
Complimentary Exhale Spa – Miami Centurion Lounge
You get access to Delta lounges when flying that airline same day (though guests will cost $29). You get a Priority Pass Select card that includes access to Alaska Airlines lounges, and many international lounges.
Alaska Airlines Boardroom Pancake Machine
You can designate one airline on which you’ll receive a $200 fee credit for the year (and in my experience, and while terms and conditions apply on all of their offers and say this isn’t supposed to work, small denomination airline gift cards have worked for reimbursement for me).
The Platinum American Express also reimburses the $100 application fee for Global Entry or the fee for TSA PreCheck, comes with Gold status in Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton Honors Gold, and National Car Rental Executive status, plus unlimited Boingo wireless internet.
- Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card is the best Membership Rewards-earning card, that can earn 1.5 points per dollar on all spend, with spending category bonuses on top. (offer expired)
The card can earn 1.5 points per dollar on all spend, and a 50% bonus even on top of spending category bonuses. So unquestionably one of the strongest cards in the market for ongoing spend.
It earns 3x at US supermarkets, and 2x at US gas stations. Supermarket bonus earn is capped at your first $6000 in spend each year. Thirty swipes in a billing cycle will get you a 50% bonus on all of your points-earning for that month — and the bonus even applies to the supermarket and gas station bonus categories (so supermarkets are up to 4.5 points per dollar).
Cathay Pacific’s AsiaMiles is an American Express transfer partner.
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express offers a limited-time best-ever signup bonus of up to 35,000 points you can earn with minimum spend and comes with 2 stays and 5 nights towards elite status, and $30,000 spend gets you Gold status from Starwood.
I’ve had the personal version for nearly 16 years. The reason it’s great is because Starwood has the most number of airline points transfer partners where transfers are 1:1 into miles (or better).
Etihad Airbus A380 First Apartment. This card’s points transfer directly to Etihad Guest, as well as programs like Singapore Airlines Krisflyer.
You’re earning Starwood Starpoints and those are the most valuable currency. And there’s a built-in 25% transfer bonus: for every 20,000 airline miles you transfer points into Starwood gives you 5000 additional miles. So you effectively earn 1.25 miles per dollar on all of your spend (a built-in 25% bonus), and you get to pick what airline program you want your miles in later.
Singapore A380 Suites Class (Transfer Points Directly to Singapore… or Numerous Other Airlines)
I’ve been an SPG cardholder for almost 16 years. I’ve carried American Express Platinum in either personal or business form since 2002 as well. I signed up for Chase Sapphire Preferred in 2011. These are in my view long-term keepers at least as long as the current value proposition is maintained.
There’s certainly subjectivity to the rankings — you need to value the things each card offers in order to rank them highly. If you value airline lounge at zero, for instance, you wouldn’t agree with me on the American Express Platinum card’s value (and probably pick up a Citi Hilton Reserve Card for the Hilton Gold status). But overall I think this is a pretty fair rendition. Any disagreements or cards you think are better than the ones listed above, appreciate the comments as always!